Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Spacious, easy to sit up.
Cons: Heavy, awnings catch wind, poor ventilation, cross pole is hard to insert, zippers are hard to close, doors get in the way when open.
Best Uses: None.
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
We don't recommend the Ahwahnee to anyone for any application. It is our lowest rated four season tent tested. If you are going to invest in a tent you money will go much father elsewhere.
See our complete Four Season Tent Review to compare the 24 models tested. Also consider a floorless tent—our testers' favorite type of shelter for 99% of fast and light trips—found in our Ultralight Tent Review.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
Note, the text below has not been updated since we expanded our four season tent review from the original 13 models tested throughout 2010 and 2010 to the 24 models now included, after testing throughout 2012 and 2013.
Of all the 13 tents reviewed here the Ahwanee has the most headroom. Two six-foot people can sit up with ease, face each other, and hang out. The Ahwahnee is wonderfully comfortable.
The tent has two poles that cross corner-to-corner and cross once in the center. A third half-length pole supports two awnings that provide cover for ventilation in foul weather. The interior floor is 33 sq. ft., and provides more than adequate space for two. Two large half moon shaped doors give each person their own entrance. This is the tent's greatest selling point.
The Ahwahnee is designed to be a versatile year round tent for everything from summer backpacking, fall base camping, to winter mountaineering.
The Ahwahnee scored quite low when compared to the other 12 four-season tents reviewed here. The pole design is its greatest downfall. The cross pole is very hard to insert and creates two large awnings that collect wind like spinnakers. This design is ill suited to high winds. Furthermore, there are no vents. Unzipping the tops of the doors is the only way to manage condensation. Breathable ToddTex fabric makes this semi-successful, but other single wall models such as the Marmot Alpinist and Mountain Hardwear EV2 have actual vents that combat condensation with greater success.
While we like that the Ahwahnee is more livable than the Black Diamond Eldordao, we detest its door design, which when opened, leaves the doors either in the dirt or in the tent. (There is no such thing as easy access with a half moon door.) You must open the zipper at least three-quarters of the way to get in. But then you risk damaging the zipper. Properly opening the door involves fully opening the zipper, rolling the door in a tight bundle, and clasping it to the bottom. This process is time consuming and can be a messy disaster when the ground is wet and dirty, or if it's raining. To make things worse, the door zippers are unnecessarily hard to open and close. This is due to the tight fitting awnings, which wrap down around the door; there is little space for your hand between the awning and the tent walls. We much prefer doors that unzip in a right facing arc. The doors on both the Hilleberg Tarra and Jannu, which nearly zip off, and stuff into a pocket, are ideal.
Another complaint, which was voiced by all testers, was the Ahwahnee's small and flimsy plastic twist tie style pole clips. These are thin, hard to use, painful to twist, and simply bad. Black Diamond includes extra twist ties, which we suggest you carry because they do break. Cold weather makes the plastic more rigid and cold hands (you have to take your gloves off in order to use the ties) make them less than comfortable and sometimes painful. Black Diamond's Firstlight and Nemo's Moki (not reviewed here) both pitch from within, but use Velcro closures, which are far better than plastic ties. The Mountain Hardwear EV2, which pitches from the outside with burly plastic clips, is equally fast, yet much easier to set up than the Ahwahnee. The Hilleberg Tarra and Jannu, both of which use a combination of nylon sleeve and alternating clips, have, without question, our favorite pole attachment method.
The Hilleberg Jannu is a much better tent. We suggest you pony up the extra cash and get it.
— Chris McNamara and Max Neale
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Most recent review: May 31, 2014
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